The scale and color density of artist Spencer Keeton Cunningham‘s work makes it almost impossible to ignore—but it’s the poignant, painful subject matter that makes his work difficult to forget. By pushing around the overly romanticized notion of North American Indian culture as a series of icons, sketches or markers, Cunningham is able to speak to the viewer through short, graphic strokes that hit hard. He’s interested in presenting his own take on the demonization of tribal people in American culture.
Being 1/4th Colville from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (which consists of 12 different tribes: The Colville, The Entiat, the Nespelem, the Okanogan, The Arrow Lake, The Methow, The San Poil, The Chelan, The Moses Columbia, the Palus, the Nez perce, and the Wenatchee), Cunningham is able to make assertions with his work that relates to his unique position and perspective in this world.
From the artist: “Many stories on and off of reservations won’t ever make it into a collective mainstream consciousness although many tribes are still being exploited by the government and large industry. Whether it’s uranium mining or “prohibition” on reservations such as the crow reservation in south central Montana. More often than not my work takes on a darker side of the American dream and what that means to a Native American or a mixed blood native coming from both worlds. And how does one deal with personal identity and a constant battle of being a part of two clashing ancestries.”